School Health Services Research and Evaluation

Photo of School Children

For over 20 years, the School Health Services Research and Evaluation Team has conducted evaluation research on a variety of school health and wellness topics, primarily focused on school-based health centers, school-based behavioral health interventions, school health needs assessments, coordinated school health efforts, and youth development interventions. Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, the Research and Evaluation Team is committed to meeting the needs of programs and funders, and ensuring that findings are translated into programs and policies that effectively serve students and school communities.

Research and Evaluation Team

samira soleimanpourSamira Soleimanpour, PhD, MPH, has led numerous multi-site, multi-method evaluations of school and adolescent health initiatives with the School Health Services Research and Evaluation Team for over 20 years. Her primary research interests focus on the influences of school environments and health services on children’s health and education outcomes, with a focus on school-based health centers (SBHCs), school-based mental health (SBMH) services, and community-based participatory research. Samira currently serves as the Principal Investigator on the evaluations of school health initiatives throughout California focused on SBHCs, SBMH programs, and youth trauma exposure. As a consultant to the School-Based Health Alliance, she contributed to the development of national performance measures for SBHCs and the national Census of SBHCs. Samira received her Master of Public Health from the George Washington University and her PhD from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She utilizes quantitative and qualitative methods in her evaluation work, including primary data collection through surveys, interviews, and focus groups and secondary data analysis. She is committed to the translation of evaluation findings into policies and programs that improve children's health and educational outcomes.

Sara GeierstangerSara Geierstanger, MPH, Research and Evaluation Director, has worked with the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF since 1994. During that time, she has designed and directed numerous multi-site evaluations on a variety of community health topics to improve programs and sustain effective strategies. In the past decade, her primary focus has been on the impact of school health services on health care access and client and student outcomes. Her current activities with the School Health Services Research and Evaluation Team include a comprehensive evaluation of school health centers in Alameda County, a federally funded evaluation through the California Department of Education focused on school-based behavioral health, and a private foundation funded evaluation of school-based behavioral health interventions in secondary schools. Prior to joining UCSF, she served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer and worked at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Sara received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and French from the University of Michigan and a Master of Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley. She also served as a U.S. Fulbright Research Scholar in Norway.

Sandy NgSandy Ng, MPH, Evaluation Data Manager, joined UCSF in 1999. Sandy’s work has primarily focused on school health services, children’s health insurance coverage, and adolescent health. She currently works on evaluations of school health centers in Alameda County and West Contra Costa County. She has also worked on evaluations of school-based yoga and mindfulness programs, school-based behavioral health services, and after school programs. Additionally, she has worked on quality improvement efforts with health and human services agencies throughout California to streamline outreach, enrollment, and retention in public/private health insurance programs. Sandy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Biology from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master of Public Health degree in Health Services Administration from San Diego State University.

Claire BrindisClaire Brindis, DrPH, is Emerita Director of the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies (PRL-IHPS) and Professor of Pediatrics and Health Policy. She also serves as Director of UCSF’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health and Co-Project Director for the Adolescent and Young Adult Health National Resource Center. She has led numerous local, state, and national evaluations of school health centers, reproductive health services for low income adolescents, children's health coverage initiatives, and coalitions devoted to expanding access to community clinics. Dr. Brindis incorporates a variety of research methodologies into her work, including community participatory research, quantitative, and qualitative approaches. She is particularly committed to the translation of research findings into policies and programs.  Dr. Brindis helped open one the first school health centers in California in San Francisco, followed by SBHC openings in Oakland, California.  She has authored several manuscripts on school health centers, as well as the “Guidebook for Evaluating School-Based Health Centers,” the first comprehensive evaluation manual of its kind.

In The News...

The School Health Services Research and Evaluation Team in recent news:
National Public Health Week Guest Post 4/10/20: Now More than Ever, Schools are a Vital Resource for Vulnerable Communities
San Francisco Chronicle 12/2/19: Blue Shield of California Funds Mental Health Workers in Schools
CapRadio 11/3/19: In California, The Teen Birth Rate Has Hit A Record Low. How?

Current Research and Evaluation Projects

topic_icon  Alameda County Center for Healthy Schools and Communities, School Health Centers (Funder: Alameda County Health Care Services Agency), 1997-present. There are currently 28 School Health Centers in the evaluation, each providing an array of physical and behavioral health services, as well as first aid, health education, and even vision and dental services in some locations. For over 20 years, our team has evaluated these School Health Centers, contributing to their success in implementing the model across school districts and providers, improving health access and outcomes for young people, and sustaining the core funding. The evaluation is used to track progress toward outcomes and to inform ongoing improvement to services, programs, outreach efforts, integration with the school, and operations. Service data are collected at every visit and document client demographics, health assessment results, services provided, external referrals, and health outcomes. Separate data collection strategies capture education and outreach activities beyond the scope of their clinical services. Youth self-report on satisfaction, health and education behaviors, and outcomes through two main sources: the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) and School Health Center Custom Module, and a Client and Youth Program Post Survey. We share the results in county, district, agency and/or site-level reports for use in planning and improvement efforts.

topic_icon Project Cal-Well Mental Health Program (Funder: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s "Now is the Time" Project Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education State Educational Agency grant to the California Department of Education), 2015-2019 (Cohort 1) and 2019-2024 (Cohort 2). Project Cal-Well’s mission is to improve mental health and wellness of California’s students, and provide training for school personnel to detect and respond to mental health issues. The California Department of Education’s (CDE) Project Cal-Well Program partnered with three grantee local educational agencies in southern California for Cohort 1 (San Diego County Office of Education and Garden Grove and ABC Unified School Districts), and is working with Humboldt, Sacramento, and Stanislaus County Offices of Education for Cohort 2. The evaluation documents how the statewide initiative is expanding school-based mental health services, and impacting youth and school staff’s awareness of mental health issues and access to care.

topic_icon Blue Shield of California’s BlueSky Initiative (Funder: Blue Shield of California), 2020-present. The BlueSky Initiative is designed to enhance awareness, advocacy and access to mental health for California’s students. At the statewide level, the BlueSky initiative will conduct public policy advocacy work, engage Blue Shield staff in volunteer efforts, and develop partnerships and sponsorships to promote mental health awareness and improve access to mental health care. At the local level, the BlueSky initiative addresses mental health for middle- and high school students in California through a combination of school-based interventions to be launched in middle- and high schools in Oakland Unified and San Leandro Unified school districts in Alameda County, and Sweetwater Union and Oceanside Unified school districts as well as Juvenile Court & Community Schools in San Diego County. The evaluation will describe the key components, successes and challenges of implementation that can inform future replication, as well as the effects on students, school staff and the school community.

Completed Research and Evaluation Projects (Selected)

topic_icon Addressing Trauma in Oakland Schools (Funder: San Francisco Foundation grant to the California School-Based Health Alliance), 2015-2017 and 2018-2020. Our Research and Evaluation Team worked with the California School-Based Health Alliance, Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, and Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) to evaluate an initiative designed to expand OUSD school health centers’ work on trauma-informed healing practices. Through this project, school health centers implemented new ways to screen students for trauma, improve connections to care for students who are impacted by trauma, and launch new trauma-informed support groups. (Download PDF: Initiative Evaluation Highlights)

topic_icon West Contra Costa County School Health Centers (Funder: California School-Based Health Alliance), 2010-2020. Using electronic data collection, client surveys, student focus groups, and key stakeholder interviews, our Research and Evaluation Team examined the effects of school health center clinical services on access to care and client satisfaction with medical, behavioral health, and support services.

topic_icon Young Men’s Empowerment Collaborative (YMEC) (Funder: Department of Justice), 2015-2020. Our Research and Evaluation Team worked with the California School-Based Health Alliance and West Contra Costa Unified School District to evaluate YMEC. YMEC supported school health centers to promote justice and healing among young men of color in West Contra Costa County who have been victims of violence. Using screening tools, clinical data collection, and post surveys of program participants, our evaluation examined program effects on youth’s self-regulation of trauma symptoms and resiliency factors.

topic_icon Promoting Adolescent Health through School-Based HIV/STD Prevention and School Surveillance (Funder: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant to the California Department of Education), 2014-2018. Using surveys, progress reports and secondary data analysis, the evaluation assessed efforts to help districts and schools deliver exemplary sexual health education; increase adolescent access to key sexual health services; establish safe and supportive environments for students and staff; and implement policies related to HIV/STD prevention. 

topic_icon Berkeley High School Health Needs Assessments (Funder: Alameda County Health Care Services Agency), 2016-2017. Using student, parent, and school staff surveys as well as student focus group and key stakeholder interviews, our Research and Evaluation Team conducted a needs assessment to determine the behavioral health needs and access to support services among Berkeley High School students. The findings helped inform the development of a more coordinated and efficient behavioral health care support system on campus.

topic_icon Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) Needs Assessment (Funder: Alameda County Health Care Services Agency), 2015-16. The goal of this project was to provide up-to-date, comprehensive information on needs, gaps, and priorities to support improved student and community health and well-being in FUSD. Primary data collection for the needs assessment was conducted with students, parents, school staff, behavioral health providers, principals and other key stakeholders representing FUSD and partnering agencies. Secondary school population data were also analyzed to provide contextual information. The Research and Evaluation Team provided a summary of the reported needs, as well as recommendations to address these needs.

Selected Publications on School Health Services

1. Soleimanpour S, Schapiro NS, Faxio A, Brindis CD. (2021). A preliminary study examining the validity of brief trauma screening tools for young adolescents in school-based health centers. Journal of Nursing Measurement. 29-(1).

2. Soleimanpour S. (2020). School-based health centers: At the intersection of health and education. Journal of Adolescent Health. 67(3): 317-318.

3. Hodges M, Guendelman S, Soleimanpour S. (2021). Adolescents’ use of school-based health centers and receipt of mental health supports. Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 120.

4. Love H, Panchal N, Schlitt J, Behr C, Soleimanpour S. (2019). The use of telehealth in school-based health centers. Glob Pediatr Health. 2019; 6:2333794X19884194. PMID: 31692723.

5. Love H, Schlitt J, Soleimanpour S, Panchal N, Behr C. (2019). Twenty years of school-based health care growth and expansion. Health Affairs, 38(5): 755–764.

6. Schapiro NA, Soleimanpour S, Brindis CD. (2018). Reaching out to youth about trauma: Adolescent rapid screening validation pilot. Journal of Adolescent Health, 62(2):s144.

7. Soleimanpour S, Geierstanger S, Brindis C. (2017). Adverse childhood experiences and resilience: addressing the unique needs of adolescents. Academic Pediatrics, 17(7):S108–S114.

8. Larsen S, Chapman S, Spetz J, Brindis C. (2017). Chronic childhood trauma, mental health, academic achievement, and school‐based health center mental health services. Journal of School Health, 87(9): 675-686.

9. Brindis C. (2016). The “state of the state” of school-based health centers. Achieving health and educational outcomes. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 6(1):139-140.

10. Larson S, Spetz J, Brindis C, Chapman S. (2016). Characteristic differences between school-based health centers with and without mental health providers: a review of national trends. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 31(4):484-492.

11. Lewis C, Deardorff J, Lahiff M, Soleimanpour S, Sakashita K, Brindis C. (2015). High school students’ experiences of bullying and victimization and the association with school health center use. Journal of School Health, 85(5):318-326.

12. Geierstanger S, Soleimanpour S. School absences due to health conditions: Interventions. (2013). In Encyclopedia of School Health, Eds. D.C. Wiley & A.C. Cory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

13. Soleimanpour S. School absences due to health conditions: Assessment. (2013). In Encyclopedia of School Health, Eds. D.C. Wiley & A.C. Cory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

14. Keeton V, Soleimanpour S, Brindis C. (2012) School-based health centers in an era of healthcare reform: Building on history. Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care, 42(6):132-158.

15. Amaral G, Geierstanger SP, Soleimanpour S, Brindis C. (2011). Mental health characteristics and health-seeking behaviors of adolescent school-based health center users and non-users. Journal of School Health, 81(3):138–145.

16. Soleimanpour S, Geierstanger S, Kaller S, McCarter V, Brindis C. (2010). The role of school based health centers in health care access and client outcomes.  Am J Public Health, 100(9):1597-603.

17. Brindis C, Geierstanger SP, Faxio A. (2009). The role of policy advocacy in assuring comprehensive family life education in California. Health Education & Behavior, 36(6):1095-1108.

18. Soleimanpour S, Brindis C, Geierstanger S, Kandawalla S, Kurlaender T. (2008). Incorporating youth-led community participatory research into school health center programs and policies. Public Health Reports, 123(6):709-716.

19. Ballonoff A, Soleimanpour S, London J. (2006). Youth action for health through youth-led research. Journal of Community Practice, 14(1/2). Published simultaneously in Youth Participation and Community Change, Eds. B. Checkoway & M. Gutierrez. New York, NY: Routledge, 2006.

20. Brindis C, Geierstanger SP, Wilcox N, McCarter V, Hubbard A. (2005). Evaluation of a peer provider reproductive health service model for adolescents. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 37(2):85-91.

21. Geierstanger SP, Amaral G, Monsour M, Russell Walters S. (2004). School-based health centers and academic performance: research, challenges and recommendations. Journal of School Health, 74(9):347-352.